Linux Mint – Executing commands

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While utilizing the shell and entering commands, you will find yourself in a completely different world compared to your desktop environment. While using the shell, you’ll enter a command, wait for a confirmation that the command was successful (if applicable), and then you will be brought back to the prompt so that you can execute another command. In many cases, the shell simply returns to the prompt with no output. This constitutes a success. Be warned though; the Linux shell makes no assumptions. If you type something incorrectly, you will either see an error message or produce unexpected output. If you tell the shell to delete a file and you direct it to the wrong one, it typically won’t prompt for confirmation and will bypass the trash folder. The Linux Shell does exactly what you tell it to, not necessarily what you want it to. Don’t let that scare you though. The Linux Shell is very logical and easy to learn. However, with great power comes great responsibility.

To get started, open your terminal emulator. You can either open the GNOME Terminal (you will find it in the application menu under Accessories or pinned to the left pane of the application menu by default) or switch to a TTY by pressing Ctrl + Alt + F1.

You’ll see a prompt that will look similar to the following:

username@hostname ~$

Let’s take a moment to examine the prompt. The first part of the prompt displays the username that the commands will be executed as. When you first open a terminal, it is opened under the user account that opened it. The second part of the prompt is the host name of the computer, which will be whatever you named it during the installation. Next, the path is displayed. In the preceding example, it’s simply a tilde ( ~). The ~ character in Linux represents the currently logged-in user’s home directory. Thus, in the preceding prompt, we can see that the current directory that the prompt is attached to is the user’s home directory. Finally, a dollar sign symbol ( $) is displayed. This represents that the commands are to be run as a normal user and not as a root user.

For example, a user named C. Norris is using a machine named Neptune. This user opens a terminal and then switches to the /media directory. The prompt would then be similar to the following:

cnorris@neptune /media $

Now that we have an understanding of the prompt, let’s walk through some examples of entering some very basic commands, which are discussed in the following steps. Later in the chapter, we’ll go over more complete examples; however, for now, let’s take the terminal out for a spin.

  1. Open a prompt, type pwd, and press Enter. The pwd command stands for print working directory. In the output, it should display the complete path that the terminal is attached to. If you ever lose your way, the pwd command will save the day. Notice that the command prints the working directly and completes it. This means that it returns you right back to the prompt, ready to accept another command.
  2. Next, try the ls command. (That’s “L” and “S”, both lowercase). This stands for list storage. When you execute the ls command, you should see a list of the files saved in your current working directory. If there are no files in your working directory, you’ll see no output.
  3. For a little bit of fun, try the following command:
    cowsay Linux Mint is Awesome

    This command shows that the Mint developers have a sense of humor and included the cowsay program in the default Mint installation. You can make the cow say anything you’d like, but be nice. The following screenshot shows the output of the preceding cowsay command, included in Mint for laughs:

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